Columns > Published on April 4th, 2012

Path to Publication Part 4: Mea Culpa

Photo by Rob Hart

Recap: This is a monthly column about trying to publish my crime/noir/literary novel, New Yorked. Click here for previous installments.


I just got back from Shake Shack. If you don't live in New York City (or one of the other random cities where it's popped up, like Dubai), Shake Shack is a gourmet burger joint. It's a wonderful, albeit crowded, place to eat.

Halfway through lunch I was hit by an odd juxtaposition of feelings, which I keep coming back to while writing this: Being so satisfied by an amazing burger, and being so profoundly depressed in the same moment.

I was getting lunch with a prestigious author (don't ask who, not telling) who offered to read my book and give me feedback. We talked for an hour. The Author called the book promising and even assuaged my fears over one of the more divisive aspects of the story.  

We also talked about the problems, with the protagonist and the plot. The Author encouraged me to do a page-one rewrite, explaining that the book had potential, which it hadn't quite reached. Which was a wonderful, encouraging thing to hear from someone I admire.

Of course, what I wanted to hear was: The book was publishable. Even though I spent nearly 24 hours tempering my hopes and keeping my expectations in check, I still felt, as we crossed the West Side Highway, that this day might be the start of something big.

But the more we talked about the book, the more I realized that I knew these problem existed, and I had chosen to remain blind in the interest of finishing.

I've come back to this several times, here and elsewhere: Amy Hempel once told me that young writers often make the mistake of wanting to publish more than wanting to write well. I want to write well. If it means waiting another year or two to be finished, so be it.

I'm not angry, because the feedback I got was generous and sensible without being sugarcoated. Some of it was interesting, but I won't pursue it. Some of it was dead-on accurate, and I'm ashamed I didn't make these connections--or that I did, and was so able to deny them.  

I thought I was done. I moved on to a novella and was getting excited about that. But it's time to go back to New Yorked. Halfway through the conversation, I think I understood where the story needs to go, for it to work. 

I keep trying to come up with some clever analogy for how I feel, but I can't. This is how I feel: That I worked my ass off to get to the summit of Mount Everest, and when I got there, I realized my perspective was completely skewed, and there was still a whole lot more mountain to climb. So I'm going to sit on a rock and feel sorry for myself, for a couple of minutes at least, and then get back to climbing. 

I've never climbed Mount Everest--or any mountain--so this might be a terrible analogy. I don't know. It's the only one I've got right now. 

Anyway, I'm sorry. I've talked a lot of shit about this process and got way ahead of myself, on a few avenues. Worst, I feel like I've let you down, because I've gotten a great deal of kindness and support in writing this column.

Thanks again for that.

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Freeimages.com Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Reedsy | Editors with Marker (Marketplace Editors)| 2024-05

Submitting your manuscript?

Professional editors help your manuscript stand out for the right reasons.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.